Bush’s $83,000 Lie About SCHIP

Today, the House is expected to vote on an extension of the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would provide health coverage to 10 million children. Despite broad bipartisan support and the urging of governors, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill by repeating false claims about the legislation.

One of most egregious canards being propogated by the White House about the SCHIP expansion is that it will provide health insurance for the wealthy. President Bush claimed at a press conference last week that Congress “made a decision to expand the eligibility up to $80,000. He repeated it in his Saturday radio address:

BUSH: Their proposal would result in taking a program meant to help poor children and turning it into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year. [9/22/07]

And the White House echoed the false talking point today in its official veto message to Congress:

[T]he current bill goes too far toward federalizing health care and turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year. If H.R. 976 were presented to the President in its current form, he would veto the bill.

However, no such proposal exists. The $83,000 figure comes from a request from New York to cover children in some slightly higher-income households because of the state’s high cost of living, but the final Congressional agreement put the poorest children “first in line” for benefits.


Center for American Progress health care analyst Jeanne Lambrew notes that the section 106 of the bill specifically ensures that there will not be any expansion of eligibility. “It overwhelming targets resources to low-income children and it discourages expansion to families with more moderate incomes by lowering the share the federal government will pay for such coverage.”

Angered by the White House’s false spin, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) fired back:

“The president’s understanding of our bill is wrong,” Grassley said, his voice rising with anger. “I urge him to reconsider his veto message based on a bill we might pass, not something someone on his staff told him wrongly is in my bill.”

Bush isn’t concerned about doling out tax cuts to the wealthy, but the mere false pretense of the well-off receiving health care is enough to make him veto benefits for 10 million children.

UPDATE: The Democratic Caucus offers a state-by-state breakdown of the impact of the SCHIP legislation.